Tilt Nightclub changes hands, drag shows no more

Update: Tilt has officially closed as of Wednesday, August 8 at 2:47pm. Read the story here 

This is a developing story. Text may be amended or added as details unfold. 

Last updated: 9:19am Aug 2

Tilt Nightclub, the long-standing LGBTQ+ club in the warehouse district of Rochester, known for it’s tagline: “where Rochester comes together”, officially announced today management was changing hands. But this statement came nearly a week after news broke on social media.

Friday, July 27, 2018 at 3:40pm, DeeDee Dubois shared a post on her Facebook that began: “A new Tilt Nightclub & Ultralounge is on its way, however due to some changes the new Tilt will no longer include drag shows on Thursdays & Saturdays.”

The post has 440 comments, 629 reactions, and 225 shares as of 4:00pm August 1. The last scheduled shows at Tilt will be Thursday, August 2, and Saturday, August 4. Information on both shows can be found at the bottom of this article.

Veteran and newcomer drag performers alike began sharing the post and their memories at Tilt. Many considered it the first place they felt truly welcome and embraced in their identity. For many more, it was a home and a family. Vanity Faire, Chastity Dee, Aziza Bijou, Kiki BañañaHammøck, Wednesday Westwood, Notorious LEZ, Hans Oliver, Tayler Mayde, Dusty Boxx, Jenna Vixen, and others took to Facebook and Instagram to share their memories, thank the host queens (notably Dubois, Samantha Vega, and Miss Deelicious) for opportunities to perform over the years, and reminisce on friendships gained. Many likened it to the feeling of Muther’s, another iconic drag venue, closing in 2011. 

The Empty Closet reached out to Tilt’s current owner, Bill Levy, yesterday for a statement and he shared that their official statement would go up today. Below is the statement:

“For a nightclub in Rochester to survive for 13 years is nearly unheard of. I have to give a giant thank you to all of the patrons, performers, former staff and current employees that made Tilt Nightclub such an enduring success. Right now I am one month away from my 70th birthday. I can feel that it’s time for me to relax and slow down finally. It is the right time for me to step aside and allow some new energy, vitality and fresh ideas take over Tilt.

Jonathan Robins and Dan Schirmer are partners in Eskape Events & Nightlife. They have a lot of experience in the nightclub and promotion business for the past 5 years. For these past 6 months they’ve been observing, studying and learning the operations at Tilt. Now they’ve invested in Tilt and are currently working to remodel, improve and rejuvenate Tilt.

Jon & Dan are ready to take over and launch the “New Tilt Nightclub”. Some things will change while many things will be the same. I will continue to assist, helping Jon & Dan make a smooth, successful transition.

This coming week, August 2-4, is the farewell party to the old Tilt. Thursday and Saturday will be the last regularly scheduled drag performances.

Thursday through Saturday, August 9-11, will be the launch party for “The New Tilt”.

I want to assure you that everyone will continue to be welcome to dance, party and socialize at Tilt.


Bill Levy”

Many on social media worried that the pivot away from drag and new management meant that the club will no longer be marketed towards the LGBTQ+ community. General language of inclusion drew red flags for some and soon rumors of Tilt becoming a “straight” club began to circulate.

Separate attempts to contact the new management from Eskape Events and Nightlife to clarify these concerns were answered quickly. Schirmer was quick to explain that “anyone is welcome [at Tilt] as long as they treat people with respect.” Further, he noted that Tilt is not necessarily “turning away from that crowd” but that drag shows will not be part of the venue due to low attendance and lack of support. He stated that is was “false information” that Tilt would no longer be an LGBTQ+ friendly space and seemed irritated that such rumors existed.

An additional request for a longer, formal statement was sent to Eskape Events from the Empty Closet at 3:45pm August 1. The following statement was sent to the Empty Closet at 3:33am August 2:

As noted on both Tilt and Dee Dee’s posts, Tilt will continue its firm policy that everyone, especially the LBGTQ community that supported Tilt for 13 years, is welcome. The LBGTQ community in fact has a very personal connection in my life.
Tilt is a very sentimental place for us. It was where I first DJ’d professionally.  My experience at Tilt nightclub led me to pursue a full-time career in this industry, forming a promotions & marketing company with my business partner Jonny Robins called Eskape Events + Nightlife. Over the years we have helped Bill make improvements at Tilt. And Eskape has been the promoter for a number of parties and events at Tilt. Now it’s come full circle, we have a chance to take over Tilt. We are giving Tilt an overhaul and some updates.  We want Tilt to continue providing the best nightclub experience possible, and to focus on being a nightclub where everyone is welcome to drink, dance, and socialize.
If you have any further questions please let us know, and we would love you to be our guest to come see our renovations and future events.
Dan Schirmer

Thursday’s show will be hosted by DeeDee Dubois with performances by Samantha Vega, Wednesday Westwood, Eva Flow, Hans Oliver, Lil-Eazy, Christian Gaye, Gizelle Dela Goodhead, Paradox, Lady Meteorite, and Hunter Down. Show starts promptly at 11pm.

The final drag show at Tilt Nightclub is this Saturday, August 4 and will be hosted by DeeDee Dubois with performances by Samantha Vega, Wednesday Westwood, Mercedes Sulay, Jénna Vixen, Ginger KaiKai, Veronica Lace, Anastasia Montclaire, Justin Styles, and more. A portion of door entry will go to the performers for this night. Show begins at 11.

We will update this story as it develops. Photos courtesy of Tilt Nightclub Facebook. 

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